Pharma Foods: What’s in it for co-innovation?

BY Fernando L. Mompó on 19 / 11 / 2014

Last post was about the increasing demand of nutricosmetics and how this is the kind of new market in which co-innovation makes all the sense.  Based on the same principles, the so-called Nutraceuticals or Pharma Foods is another potential market starting to leverage the growing movement to prevent ill health and disease through better nutrition. But, what’s in it for co-innovation?

Several weeks ago I wrote about what Laboratorios Esteve and Pascual Group did some time ago creating a joint society named Balance Labs to manufacture and market food products for diabetic people. Aiming to a more general demographic target was the case of  U.S. soft drink company Coca-Cola  teaming up with French drugmaker Sanofi to launch a line of “beauty drinks” in France a couple of years ago.

The drinks were branded Beautific Oenobiol, after Sanofi’s beauty nutrition brand Oenobiol, which it acquired in 2009, and claimed several well-being and beauty benefits: help strengthen hair and nails, embellish skin, aid weight loss and improve vitality. The 50/50 partnership to launch the drinks as part of both companies’ diversification efforts was announced as a small-scale pilot which was limited to a number of pharmacies in France. At the moment , it is difficult to find information about the results of the joint venture, which are probably not good news about its success.

Unaware about the way how this partnership was managed or how the new drinks were marketed, there is not reason for not to list some rationale for encouraging pharma and food companies to find a gold mine by co-innovating to address this emerging market:

  • For drug companies, the nutritional products market is a low-regulatory space in which to expand their consumer base. For food companies, this new category of products represent an open field for innovation with new products with a higher profit margins.

  • Both pharmaceutical and food companies can find themselves out of their comfort zone when it comes to pharma foods, with different barriers to entry. Overcoming these barriers together with both kinds of expertise in their respective markets should make it much easier.

  • Food companies will need to improve their R&D capabilities to gain their scientific credibility. They will need also developing relationships with new types of partners, including drug stores and health practitioners. Pharmaceutical companies already have the scientific credibility needed, but they will have to learn to compete on taste and to develop relationships with new players and channels as, for instance, supermarket retailers.

Coca-Cola, Sanofi team for new line of “Beautific” drinks

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